06/07/2012

The Algerian government is celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of independence with pomp but mostly with indifference

The 5th of July 2012 marks the fiftieth anniversary of the independence of Algeria, after 132 years of French colonization and a decolonization war which has made nearly 400,000 deaths, according to the most realistic estimations. International press, both French than Arab, does little echo of this anniversary. Never mind, the government decided to hold great festivities throughout the year which will cost, according to Le Figaro, nearly € 2 billion.

Only the “official” Algeria has celebrated its independence. No Arab or African Head of State did attend the opening festivities by president Bouteflika. Instead of celebrating the martyrs of the War of Independence, this first day of splendor seemed rather to give glory to President Bouteflika, president since 1999, like in North-Korea, as indicated by the newspaper El Watan. It must be said that the assessment of fifty years of independence is very disappointing: a failed socialist experiment, an agrarian reform missed, a civil war that lasted over 10 years and a power confiscated by the army to become completely corrupt.

Population, as explained in the same newspaper, also sulks these festivities organized by a regime which it no longer identifies. Moreover, the few demonstrators who dared to criticize this waste were violently stopped by the police on July 5.

The first day of commemoration sums up very well the current government of Algeria today. A regime seized by a self-satisfied clique completely disconnected from reality as experienced by the vast majority of Algerians. A regime able of free spending money from oil and gas, but unable to offer opportunities for the young Algerians. A regime unable to make the entire population enjoy major natural and human wealth of the country. Finally, a regime unable give up power and to launch political reform that people will wait while the Arab world is in full swing. By cons, an Algerian government that continues to exploit his anti-French resentment in this commemorative year to create a semblance of unity around him.

While their neighbors are experiencing in various degrees unprecedented political reforms, these are still expected in Algeria. Three main reasons can explain this situation.

First, much of the population is marked by the long and bloody civil war of the 1990s. Indeed it began following a democratic opening of the regime, which led to the victory of the Salvation Islamic Front during the 1991 elections and the cancellation of the result by the military.

Second, Algerian oil and gas are in the hands of the regime. The huge income they can relate onto calm protests by a redistribution of part of this wealth.

Finally, the current uncertainty in Libya and in Egypt as a result of the « Arab Spring » Algerian makes careful, as well as the events that shook the Sahel and particularly neighboring Mali.

Here are three arguments offered to the government to prevent any reform and opening. Yet it is time for the Algerian government to engage in real political, social and economic reforms that Algerian population needs. One may wonder however whether the population will always remain so calm until the next presidential elections in 2014.

GEOFFROY D’ASPREMONT